Troop Support employee saves time with automated HAZMAT label process

By Jason Kaneshiro DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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A group of Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support employees has spent hundreds of hours a year manually completing the forms required to transport hazardous materials.

Maria Dubatto, a contracting specialist with the Construction and Equipment supply chain, developed a solution to cut that time by 89 percent and make it easier for her team to fill in the forms more efficiently.

“We need to request the safety data sheet and Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s hazardous communication standard label for every award we make,” she said. “The old process took about three minutes.”

Dubatto’s team provides HAZMAT to warfighters and other customers. These items are grouped together under federal supply group 80, which includes items such as paints, preservative and sealing compounds, and adhesives.

It took 324 hours to process an estimated 720 HAZMAT form requests per year before applying Dubatto’s software solution.

She wrote a computer function automating the accurate completion of the forms as part of a Lean Six Sigma project that earned Dubatto her Green Belt certification.

“My project used a programming language called Visual Basic for Applications, which is built into most Microsoft Office applications,” Dubatto said.

The programming language can be used to write macros. Macros execute a set of programmed instructions based off a single user input, automating repetitive processes.

“Using this macro reduces the process time from three minutes to 20 seconds per email,” Dubatto said. “It also serves as a checklist for the buyer so they don’t forget to ask for something they may need.”

The documentation is sent to a team of DLA chemists in Richmond, Virginia for review before being uploaded to the Hazardous Materials Information Resource System database.

“If the documents aren’t in that database by the time the material arrives at the depot, the material will be put into litigation,” Dubatto said. “This delays the material getting to the customer and delays payment to the vendor.”

Many of those items also have a limited shelf-life and risk expiring while waiting to be released from litigation, Dubatto said.

Hank Jansen, a Lean Six Sigma master black belt with the Process Compliance directorate, coached Dubatto through her project and said that the time saved in the ordering process translates to faster warfighter support and additional time employees can spend on other tasks.

“This project was able to incorporate better business practices in alignment with DLA Troop Support’s goals to leverage technology and best practices to sustain process excellence,” Jansen said.